What is cataract?
Cataract is the clouding of the lens and the primary cause of visual impairment around the globe, usually in people over 55 years old. Without proper treatment this disease can lead to blindness.
Within the eye the lens, just like the lens of a camera, projects images onto the retina. With cataract the lens slowly becomes cloudy, causing blurred and hazy vision.
Cataract usually develops slowly and commonly occurs in both eyes, although it can also be limited to a single eye. The speed with which the disease evolves varies greatly and will also vary in effect from eye to eye. The following symptoms may occur:
- Blurred vision (like looking through a dirty or scratched pair of glasses)
- Reduced vision
- Occasional double vision and increased sensitivity to light
- Reduced colour perception (colours become faded or pale)
Cataract is most common in later years as a result of the normal aging process of the eye, but can sometimes affect young people. In children this is usually the consequence of a hereditary condition.
Other causes might be:
- Existing pathology (diabetes, kidney disease, high blood pressure …)
- Specific eye disorders (e.g. glaucoma), infection or trauma (e.g. sharp object or hard blow)
- Specific medication (e.g. long-term cortisone therapy)
- Overexposure to UV rays (the sun) and smoking
Cataract treatment becomes necessary when visual acuity is reduced to such an extent that daily visual efforts become difficult (e.g. driving, watching TV, reading,).
There are no drugs available that can cure cataract. Glasses or extra lighting can temporarily improve the situation, but visibility will slowly but surely diminish as the cataract further develops.
Until recently, only one technique was available for the treatment of cataract: phacoemulsification. FEMTO CATARACT is the most recent technology in which cataract surgery is performed using a laser instead of surgical blades.
Cataract surgery (phacoemulsification)
During this short surgical procedure the clouded lens is replaced by an artificial one (lens implantation).
The technique used for this surgical procedure is called phacoemulsification. The patient is installed under a surgical microscope and the operation is carried out under local anaesthesia (eye drops) and light sedation (intravenous), possibly under the supervision of an anaesthesiologist.
- Via a small cut in the cornea, a circular incision is made into the anterior capsule of the lens and it is removed (capsulorrexhis)
- The clouded lens is fragmented by way of ultrasonic vibration
- The subsequent fragments are aspirated from the eye
- After the remaining lens capsule has been carefully rinsed, a pliable, artificial lens is inserted
This operation takes less than 15 minutes and the patient will remain in the eye clinic for approximately 2 hours afterwards.
Indications and limitations
In principle, this type of surgery can successfully treat all forms of cataract. In exceptional cases an alternative technique is used should the lens not be sufficiently connected to the supporting muscles or in situations where the posterior capsule has also been damaged.
Monofocal lenses ensure clear vision at a single distance (mostly from far away) and have always been used as the default solution for cataract interventions. Glasses will still be necessary for clear vision at all distances.
The most advanced solution is the multifocal lens implant which ensures clear vision at all distances and lasts for a lifetime. Monofocal and multifocal lenses have recently been improved through the addition of a yellow filter which protects the macula.
Astigmatism (‘rugby ball shaped eye’) is corrected by making incisions which reduce tension within the eye or through toric lens implants.
Aspheric lenses provide better contrast for night vision.
The FEMTO CATARACT technique
This new laser-guided technique makes the treatment of cataract extremely precise, meaning an even more speedy recovery and less risk of complications. The FEMTO laser has proven its worth in LASIK corneal treatment.
Focus Eye Clinic was the first eye centre in Belgium to opt for the Swiss precision of the ZIEMER Z8 LDV. This revolutionary device is distinguished by lower energy emittance with a higher pulse repetition rate, together with minimal pressure on the eye.
Before laser treatment, a computer-controlled scan (OCT) of the eye is made in order to provide a 3D plan for the surgical procedure. The following 4 crucial steps are then carried out by the laser:
Fragmentation of the affected lens
Advantages of this technique
- Improved safety and accuracy
- Through increased precision and reliability, results are improved and there are fewer risks of complications
- Frequently utilised technique (more than 20 years of experience)
- Recovery of vision is more or less immediate
- Pain-free surgery
Risks related to this technique
The same complications can occur as in any intraocular surgery. These can be treated appropriately when diagnosed in a timely manner:
- Increased intraocular pressure
- Oedema of the central area of the retina
- Retinal detachmentVerhoging van de oculaire druk
Occasionally, clouding of the posterior capsule of the original lens can occur after a period of months or years. Appropriate treatment is available
For your health insurance supplier and RIZIV, it makes no difference whether you opt for a state hospital or a private clinic for the treatment of cataract. Reimbursement is the same: 500 to 750€ per eye.
If you have signed up for extra hospitalisation insurance with DKV, AG Fortis, AXA, Ethias, Van Breda or Allianz, classic cataract treatment (monofocal lens implant) will be 100% reimbursed.